Using the Electron to detect the presence of cell phone signals


I’m curious if anyone knows about the Electron and its capabilities yet.

What I’m wondering is, since the Electron has the ability to communicate on 2g and 3g networks, whether it has the ability to act as a receiver and monitor cell data travelling from phone to tower. I am working on an installation for my university, and we are looking into ways of detecting when people approach or are in the vicinity of the object. There are a few builds out there for cell detection circuits, but so far I’ve had no luck with it, or the parts aren’t being produced for it.

Ideally, all I would want from the Electron are numbers based on the strength of a cell signal that it detects in a nearish vicinity (0-30 ft would be best).

if you know whether the Electron is capable of this, or if you have any other ideas or thoughts on this please let me know!
thanks in advance

Any updates on this front? I’m trying to find cell phones in my house that the kids are sneaking in to skirt the rules… One child keeps borrowing friends’ phones :-(. Grrrrr! All I want to do is wire it up to an LED meter to know when I’m getting close. A professional device is $1700, used to find contraband in prisons. Can the Electron help me out here?



I don’t know if a cell-signal detecting device would be effective. Kids would figure out ways to fool it, or put phones into airplane mode / just use wifi.

If they put the device into airplane mode then they aren’t on Snapchat - I win, mission accomplished! :wink:

If they use wifi, I can see them on my router. My router is fairly hardened and won’t let the kids get on various sites. I’ll also know the new device is in the house and can generally find them - I win again. I tracked down one just last night like this. Hehehehehe… Unfortunately I see another one in my router that I can’t track down - if I had a cell phone detector I might be able to put my hands on it.

@bschuhma, I don’t believe this is possible with the Electron since that requires a peer-to-peer relationship instead of a peer-to-tower one. The Ublox modem is not designed for that IMO.

Here is something that supposedly detects cellular signals up to 40 feet away.

How are you blocking websites on your router? If you are using something like OpenDns, it can be bypassed by kids by changing the DNS settings on their phone.

Thanks, @peekay123 - it was worth a shot! :wink:

@nrobinson2000 - I use dd-wrt. All DHCP clients get limited. I set my own devices up with static addresses, which are not limited. (shhhh… don’t tell the kids or they might try to get a static IP). I could do a better job and limit them by MAC, but even that’s spoofable.

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Damn, that’s a pretty serious setup.

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Thanks, @RWB - that’s a LOT cheaper than the $1700 quote I got for Still… $349 to rule with an iron fist… I could buy a lot of Photons for that kind of money! However, the child in question has broken the SAME rules 5 times, and no amount of grounding and loss of electronics has deterred her yet. :frowning:

@bschuhma, on Rogers here in Canada I can suspend my son’s phone service which kills all cell services and he is left with only wifi, which like you, I control (MAC based).

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Sure, but you own your son’s account. I use MMGuardian to regulate when, what, how and where my kids access their (Android) phones (I don’t work for them, I just REALLY like MMGuardian). If they back-talk me, I push a button and lock up their phone. However, the problem is that the one child is SMUGGLING a FRIEND’s phone into the house, unbeknownst to me. I can kick it off wifi, but it still has data service through the carrier, so I can’t regulate it (it’s not my cell account).

Here is what they use in the prisons :smile:

My daughter just turned 7, I’m not looking forward to dealing with these issues :smiley:


In all honesty, if they’re smart enough to bypass router blocks, MAC filters, etc. they’re probably also smart enough to find a way around potential sniffing/detection devices.
At the same time, they should then also be smart enough to handle any online temptations responsibly. With that in mind, efforts might best be spent in educating them on the possible pitfalls of the web, rather than cutting them off entirely. There’s a point at which it’s no longer viable to control their (online) lives, a point at which I’d rather have them face it well-prepared, and aware of possible risks.
Just my two cents, though building a detection device can be fun in its own right :wink:


@Moors7 Do you have any kids?

They are very complicated creatures :smile:


Only recently having ‘escaped’ from that phase myself, I do not have any of my own :wink:
I do consider myself to be one of those kids that’d try to find my way around potential blocks, just to see if I could do it. Nothing is as enticing as someone saying:“you can’t” :wink: In this day and age it’s virtually impossible to keep people from the internet if they really want to get on it. Especially teens have this insatiable urge to get their online high. Unless you plan on keeping them in Faraday cage, there’s very little you can do about it.
From personal experience I can say I’m glad my parents raised me well enough to evaluate ‘stuff’ on the web adequate and act accordingly.

Let’s say you do get this tracker, then they just enable communications only when and if the tracker is off, or there’s nobody nearby to notice. Then they continue using whatever it is you’d rather not have them use without any supervision or guidance.
The alternative would be to talk to them about why you’d rather not have them use it (that much/yet/all the time). I know, they don’t like talking, but I personally prefer a well argumented reason over a dictatorship of:“you can’t and I’m gonna take it from you. Why? 'Cause I say so, that’s why”. I know that might be your good right as a parent, but I’m much more willing to oblige if it’s reasonable.

I know a couple of kids that were being raised rather strict with ‘no violence games’ and stuff like that. Guess who was playing those things when their parents weren’t around… And since it couldn’t be discussed there was no supervision at all, or guidance for that matter. And that was in a time where you needed a physical desktop, which is hard to hide. You can stick a modern cellphone almost anywhere you like without it being noticed easily.


Post removed, don’t use this, the FBI doesn’t like it.

Legal Note: Don’t do that.


My two cents but for the photon.

Be fun to build this circuit. Can anyone simplify it to just a detector getting D7 to flash.

Here is another one

I think these are legal since you are not jamming any signals

Great to make three and triangulate the results or make 2 of them a meter apart and walk around a classroom.